This Must Not Stand

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Look, this isn’t about Politics-with-a-capital-P: there was a referendum, small majority voted to leave the EU, we have to manage what happens next. That’s just how democracy works. And markets will eventually stabilise, deals will be reached and things will come together like a lucky drunk fumbling his way round a jigsaw.

But this is a Bible blog,  and so it’s at least partly about politics-with-a-small-p, because how we think about God will mould have we think about people and society and laws and how we live together. And the church can’t help but find itself in the middle of that messiness, because the church is made up of people that form communities, and right now there are scared people out there.

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Apparently instances of racial abuse have risen 57% since last Friday. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Brexit, it seems like a spectre has been unleashed, or rather emboldened. I didn’t want to use the picture above, because I didn’t want to give the damn thing airtime, but this is what seems to be facing people in our communities to an increasing degree.

Maybe we weren’t aware of that. I wrote elsewhere that the last week feels apocalyptic, not because it’s The End Of The World, but because it’s an unveiling, a revelation of things that were hidden behind the curtain. We’re seeing things now that are messing with my naivete and my privilege as a comfortably employed white guy – the blatant violence of racism in word and deed, the fear of migrant communities and the fear and rage of people robbed of hope and opportunity and hunting down a scapegoat.

What do we do with this? I guess it’ll be different for each congregation; we need to challenge attitudes that are toxic and dehumanising, we need to offer sanctuary for those who feel scared and threatened, we need to build bridges rather than set down landmines. We have to declare, with one voice, that hatred and bigotry and violence won’t get beyond our gates, that there’s a line in the sand around our churches and a sign above it that says “No further”. Heck, we have to think about wearing safety pins.

It’s also an unveiling in the sense that we’re forced to ask ourselves where Jesus is in all this. To be honest, this isn’t that difficult a question. He’s alongside the families who received that note through their letter box. He’s alongside the German woman told by ‘friends’ that they don’t want her here any more. He’s on a tram in Manchester. He’s sweeping up at a Polish community centre. Jesus is always with the vulnerable and the marginalised, we see that throughout the gospels, and if that’s where Jesus is, that’s where the church should also be.

Something bad has found its voice. Something dangerous has started to roar. We need to shout louder.

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